Rich Strike Surges Late for Stunning 80-1 Upset in 2022 Kentucky Derby

Racing
Rich Strike inhaled Epicenter in the closing strides of the 2022 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve to engineer an 80-1 upset May 7 at Churchill Downs. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Rich Strike, who failed to qualify for the 20-horse Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve but received a starting gate berth when Ethereal Road scratched the day before, pulled one of the shocking upsets in the race’s 148-year history on May 7 at Churchill Downs.

Rich Strike, at 80.80-1 odds the second-longest shot ever to score in the Derby, capitalized on a scorching pace to produce an outcome that perhaps only his connections thought could come true. He had been claimed for $30,000 out of his second career start last September at Churchill Downs.

2022 Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike

No one could have foreseen then that he would best Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby winner Epicenter by three-quarters of a length to deny Steve Asmussen his long-awaited Derby triumph and drop the all-time winning trainer in North American history to 0-for-24 in the race he covets most. Zandon finished third with Simplification taking fourth.

Richard Dawson, Rich Strike’s owner, insisted he had faith in his horse despite staggering odds and the colt’s 1-for-7 lifetime mark before this.

“We would never, ever put a horse in a race that we didn’t think he could win,” Dawson said during an NBC post-race interview.

He added, “We just knew we had a shot because every time he went longer, he got better.”

Said little-known trainer Eric Reed: “I knew if he got in, they would know who he was by the time the race was over.”

But Reed also acknowledged the improbability of it all.

“I never dreamed I would be here,” he said as he looked out at the crowded post-race press conference. “I never went to a sale to try to buy a Derby horse. This was never in my plans.”

He hoped he was adding a solid dirt horse and helping to rebuild Dawson’s stable when he claimed Rich Strike from trainer Joe Sharp out of a one-mile dirt race last Sept. 17. He had noted that the chestnut colt, bred by famed Calumet Farm, had turned in some sharp works before a dismal 10th place debut in an Aug. 15 turf race at Ellis Park.

He thought the youngster might run to his works with a shift to dirt and was willing to test that belief by dropping a claim slip before the juvenile’s one-mile dirt debut. The only suspense after Rich Strike rolled by 17 1/4 lengths was whether the claiming attempt had been successful. It had been.

“I had no expectations like this at the time,” Reed said. “I just thought we made a good claim. I guess we did.”

The Derby upset was worth $1.86 million to a 3-year-old that had previously earned $111,289. He had shown some ability but nothing eye-catching in his first three starts this year — all on Turfway Park’s synthetic surface — by sandwiching third-place finishes around a fourth-place effort. In his last start, he had rallied for third in the Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Steaks, trailing victorious Tiz the Bomb by 5 ¾ lengths. Tiz the Bomb, incidentally, finished up the track in ninth in one of the Derby’s wackiest editions.

Leon aboard Rich Strike. (Eclipse Sportswire)

The opening leg of the Triple Crown set up perfectly for Rich Strike to strike it rich and snap a five-race losing streak. Summer Is Tomorrow, at 36.80-1, did everything he could to steal the mile-and-a-quarter classic by setting blistering fractions, taking the field of 20 through an opening half-mile in a scorching 45.36 seconds. They were still humming along through an opening three-quarters in 1:10.34 en route to a final time of 2:02.61.

Rich Strike lit up the tote board by paying $163.60 to win, 74.20 to place, and 28.40 to show.

“A dream come true,” jockey Sonny Leon said after his first graded-stakes victory.

The Venezuelan-born Leon is best known as the leading rider at Mahoning Valley in Youngstown, Ohio, the last three years. He was nowhere to be found at Churchill Downs on Longines Kentucky Oaks day, instead accepting six mounts at Belterra Park in Cincinnati.

Yet the most exciting two minutes in sports were not too big for him. He patiently worked his way through traffic, then made a bold and decisive move up the rail during the stretch run as one prime contender after another yielded to fatigue.

Donerail had ranked as the longest of longshots in Derby history, pulling off what seemed impossible at 91-1 odds in 1913.

Rich Strike may still need some work as far as handling his new-found celebrity. He was so wired after the finish that he repeatedly attempted to savage the lead pony that arrived to accompany him to the winner’s circle.

2022 Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve
May 7th, 2022

Winning Time: 2:02.61
  • Purse: $3,000,000
  • Distance: 1 1/4 Miles
  • Age: 3 yo
  • Surface: Dirt
  • Winning Time: 2:02.61
Results
Win
Place
Show
1st
21 Rich Strike
$163.60
$74.20
$29.40
2nd
3 Epicenter
$7.40
$5.20
3rd
10 Zandon
$5.60
4th
13 Simplification
5th
1 Mo Donegal
6th
14 Barber Road
7th
18 Tawny Port
8th
5 Smile Happy
  • Owner / Lucky Seven Stable
  • Breeder / Moreau Bloodstock Int'l Inc. & White Bloodstock LLC
9th
9 Tiz the Bomb
10th
19 Zozos
11th
17 Classic Causeway
12th
12 Taiba
13th
7 Crown Pride (JPN)
14th
2 Happy Jack
16th
15 White Abarrio
17th
8 Charge It
18th
16 Cyberknife
19th
11 Pioneer of Medina
20th
4 Summer Is Tomorrow
Scratches
Payoff
Pick 3
3YO 5-9-21
3YO 5-9-21
$29,167
Pick 3
OAKS/FRSTR/DERBY 1-10-21
OAKS/FRSTR/DERBY 1-10-21
$31,336
Pick 3
3-10-21
3-10-21
$1,612
Pick 3
OAKS/FRSTR/DERBY 1-1-21
OAKS/FRSTR/DERBY 1-1-21
$3,111
Pick 4
9-3/8-10-21
9-3/8-10-21
$25,835
Pick 5
5-9-3/8-10-21
5-9-3/8-10-21
$247,216
Pick 5
DIRT STAKES 3-5/7-5-3/8-21
DIRT STAKES 3-5/7-5-3/8-21
$748,075
Pick 6
OAKS/DERBY 6-1-5-3/8-10-21
OAKS/DERBY 6-1-5-3/8-10-21
$5,024
Pick 6 Jackpot
5/7-5-9-3/8-10-21
5/7-5-9-3/8-10-21
$161,631
Daily Double
10-21
10-21
$1,365
Daily Double
OAKS/DERBY 1-21
OAKS/DERBY 1-21
$973
Exacta
21-3
21-3
$4,101
Future Wager
SIRE - 24
SIRE - 24
$10
Future Wager
POOL 4 - 24
POOL 4 - 24
$10
Future Wager
POOL 5 EX - 24-7
POOL 5 EX - 24-7
$254
Future Wager
OAKS/DERBY DBL 18-24
OAKS/DERBY DBL 18-24
$39
Future Wager
POOL 2 EX - 24-7
POOL 2 EX - 24-7
$152
Future Wager
POOL 3 - 24
POOL 3 - 24
$6
Future Wager
POOL 5 - 24
POOL 5 - 24
$39
Future Wager
POOL 2 - 24
POOL 2 - 24
$6
Future Wager
POOL 3 EX - 24-8
POOL 3 EX - 24-8
$156
Future Wager
POOL 1 - 24
POOL 1 - 24
$3
Future Wager
POOL 4 EX - 24-8
POOL 4 EX - 24-8
$171
Superfecta
21-3-10-13
21-3-10-13
$321,500
Super High Five
21-3-10-13-1
21-3-10-13-1
$741,019
Trifecta
21-3-10
21-3-10
$7,435
Payoff
Pick 3
3YO 5-9-21
3YO 5-9-21
$29,167
Pick 3
OAKS/FRSTR/DERBY 1-10-21
OAKS/FRSTR/DERBY 1-10-21
$31,336
Pick 3
3-10-21
3-10-21
$1,612
Pick 3
OAKS/FRSTR/DERBY 1-1-21
OAKS/FRSTR/DERBY 1-1-21
$3,111
Pick 4
9-3/8-10-21
9-3/8-10-21
$25,835
Pick 5
5-9-3/8-10-21
5-9-3/8-10-21
$247,216
Pick 5
DIRT STAKES 3-5/7-5-3/8-21
DIRT STAKES 3-5/7-5-3/8-21
$748,075
Pick 6
OAKS/DERBY 6-1-5-3/8-10-21
OAKS/DERBY 6-1-5-3/8-10-21
$5,024
Pick 6 Jackpot
5/7-5-9-3/8-10-21
5/7-5-9-3/8-10-21
$161,631
Daily Double
10-21
10-21
$1,365
Daily Double
OAKS/DERBY 1-21
OAKS/DERBY 1-21
$973
Exacta
21-3
21-3
$4,101
Future Wager
SIRE - 24
SIRE - 24
$10
Future Wager
POOL 4 - 24
POOL 4 - 24
$10
Future Wager
POOL 5 EX - 24-7
POOL 5 EX - 24-7
$254
Future Wager
OAKS/DERBY DBL 18-24
OAKS/DERBY DBL 18-24
$39
Future Wager
POOL 2 EX - 24-7
POOL 2 EX - 24-7
$152
Future Wager
POOL 3 - 24
POOL 3 - 24
$6
Future Wager
POOL 5 - 24
POOL 5 - 24
$39
Future Wager
POOL 2 - 24
POOL 2 - 24
$6
Future Wager
POOL 3 EX - 24-8
POOL 3 EX - 24-8
$156
Future Wager
POOL 1 - 24
POOL 1 - 24
$3
Future Wager
POOL 4 EX - 24-8
POOL 4 EX - 24-8
$171
Superfecta
21-3-10-13
21-3-10-13
$321,500
Super High Five
21-3-10-13-1
21-3-10-13-1
$741,019
Trifecta
21-3-10
21-3-10
$7,435

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